While all the attention is on the Badgers historic run to the Final Four this week, Wisconsin football returned to the field following Spring Break and it means we’re getting closer to the April 12 spring game. It also means we are getting closer to answers at key positions…or are we?
As Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal points out, injuries are hindering the growth of the wide receiver corp. It’s frustrating for a group looking to find anybody willing to step up and be a star, and it was noticeable to wide receivers coach Chris Beatty.
“This is more than I’ve ever been around,” Beatty said of the injuries, according to Mulhern’s article. “You knew the numbers were going to be down because of attrition and stuff. That’s why we signed as many as we signed.
“These little nicks and stuff, you can’t predict that. That part of it’s frustrating.”
Just how bad is it? Well consider Rob Wheelwright, Alex Erickson, Reggie Love, Connor Cummins and Jake Stengel were still out during this latest practice. In the cases of Wheelwright and Love, it’s been nearly all spring camp that they’ve been out.
That means Jazz Peavy, Kenzel Doe, Lance Baretz and A.J. Jordan (who moved back to wide receiver recently, after a brief time at safety) are the only ones available to practice. At least the coaching staff will know exactly what they have in those four options come the end of spring.
It appears that Kenzel Doe is taking advantage of his opportunities to date, and that could translate into a much bigger role come this fall. Yet, do we really know enough about the rest of the roster to know he’s going to be able to do more on a consistent basis come Saturday’s in the fall?
Perhaps the bigger issue is that the massive list of the walking wounded at wide receiver isn’t the only issue going on.
A young group of receivers not being able to play also is hurting the competition at quarterback, where Joel Stave has re-joined the others vying for the job on a growing basis. Despite the lack of receiving targets, at least there appears to be some separation and answers starting to form at that position.
It appears that Joel Stave and Tanner McEvoy have become the frontrunners, as they’ve begun to take the majority of reps in team drills with the first team. Yet, without a full look at the wide receiver position, is there really a lot you can learn about who these quarterbacks are as throwers?
The issues aren’t just limited to the offensive side of the ball either, as Wisconsin’s safety position has been a revolving door. First it was A.J. Jordan and Leo Musso, now we see Michael Caputo moving back from linebacker to safety and he appears to be teaming up with Musso.
With Caputo back at safety, the Badgers also moved Joe Schobert back to outside linebacker and Michael Trotter back inside as a result. According to head coach Gary Andersen; it was all in an effort to find the right pieces to the puzzle.
“We’re constantly looking at things this spring,” Andersen said to the gathered press. “We’re definitely a better team with Michael back at safety and Joe back at the outside linebacker spot. You mesh the positions together and find the best fit.”
Add up the injuries, constantly changing positions for players and the effects each have, and you have to ask the question of whether or not the questions we all are asking will have any answers come April 13, 2014?
Chances are, internally the position moves answered questions about what is on the Badgers roster defensively, but on offense it’s hard to say the Badgers are even close to answering any of the burning questions.
About the only piece of good news is that we are appearing to get answers at one position group—tight end. Multiple reports have Troy Fumagalli and Austin Traylor doing some nice things opposite Sam Arneson. However, that was a minor piece of the puzzle.
It’s likely that we’re heading in to the fall with the vast majority of the same questions left unanswered—unless something changes over the next few weeks.